Children are waiting over a year to be assessed for disability needs in Cork — nearly four times over the legal time limit allowed.
Parents are being advised to make formal complaints to the HSE over the assessment delays.
The family of one nine-year-old girl, waiting over six months to be assessed for a special needs condition, has been told by the HSE they will have to wait several more months before she can be assessed.
Cork South Central TD Michael McGrath, who knows the family, said the delays are being experienced by thousands of families nationwide.
Figures received in a parliamentary answer from the HSE to Mr McGrath show health authorities in Cork are still processing applications for disability needs from July 2015 — despite laws compelling officials to do so within three months of submissions.
In 2008, there were 326 applications for an assessment of need in the Cork area. But this had increased to 1,155 in 2015, representing more than a three-fold increase, the HSE says.
An application for an assessment of need (AON) was made by the girl’s mother last December, with a reply saying this would commence no later than in late March.
Under disability legislation, an AON must commence within three months of receipt of an application.
Furthermore, the assessment must be completed within a further three months.
The HSE apologised to the girl’s mother in February and said that the delay was due to the “volume of applications” and the “reduced number of staff”. But the girl’s assessment for disability needs is now delayed even longer, the HSE says.
“The Disability Act staff members are currently processing applications that were received in July 2015; therefore, it will be a number of months before [her] application is processed. The AON complaints’ process is available to [her] parents should they wish to avail of this facility.”
Mr McGrath says the delay is being experienced by others across the country.
“Parents of children with special needs waiting for an assessment of need are now at their wits end.
“The reality now is that many are waiting 12 to 18 months to receive a diagnosis for their child instead of the six months set out in the Disability Act.
“This is truly a disgraceful way to treat children with special needs and can delay vital interventions to help them. It beggars belief that parents are being advised to submit a complaint to the HSE in an effort to speed up the process.”
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